Image captured in the Wynwood District of Miami, FL
I ran across a blog post recently about lessons learned from wearing a leg cast. Since I recently had surgery on my ankle, and wore a cast for several weeks, I thought I would come up with a list of my own.
So, here are my 9 lessons learned while recovering from surgery:
- Learn how to talk about your health. Keith and I were forced to deal with this early in our relationship. You can read about it on this post about health care. But even for us, as we are getting older, we’re reminded that we have to let go of some of the mystery and start openly talking about all aspects of our health.
- Listen to your doctor. What you do during your recovery impacts the rest of your life. I broke my back when I was 23 years old. And now, thirty years later, I’m happy to say that I do not have any back pain. I attribute that to listening to my doctor. When he told me not to lift anything heavier than a glass of water, I did it. It’s tough, especially when you mentally feel fine.
- Plan ways to make your recovery easier. We don’t always get the benefit of planning surgeries in advance. But when you can, make sure you do. We made meals in advance so Keith didn’t have to initially worry about doing those things. As I progressed in my recovery, I was able to help more.
- Think about how to you will do the necessities of life such as bathing, driving, etc. With my knee scooter, there were rooms in our house I couldn’t get into – like the water closet in our master bath. It’s too small. Or the laundry room. Luckily, I was able to get my knee scooter a couple of days prior to surgery, so I could figure out how I was going to bathe and get around the house.
- Get comfortable asking for help. I consider myself a pretty independent person. So, it’s hard for me to ask for assistance to do things around the house. But I have to. I will say that spending $20 on a basket for my knee scooter was money well spent. I was able to carry my iPad around the house. I also used the water bottles from conferences for drinking so I didn’t have to worry about it spilling as I scoot around.
- Be grateful for little things. And let little things slide. You will be amazed at the little things you can and cannot do when you’re recovering. I was non-weight bearing for several weeks so I couldn’t put my foot on the floor. Trust me when I say, doing everything on one foot isn’t easy. It also means that I needed to let Keith do things that I would normally do, his own way. I will admit (and I’m sure Keith would agree), that’s not as easy as it might seem.
- When you look different, people treat you different. And unfortunately, I don’t always mean that in a good way. I found this to be the case when I was 23 and it’s sad to say that it still holds true today. Don’t’ get me wrong, some people are wonderful and helpful when you interact with them. Others assume that, because you have a physical disability, whether it’s temporary or permanent, that you also have an intellectual disability.
- Thank your caregiver. AND, plan a thank you for your caregiver. Keith jokingly told me that he was “paying it forward” for the time that I will be his caregiver. And I’m sure that’s true. But he still deserves to hear the words “thank you.” AND, I’ve promised that I will take him out for dinner or a little staycation once I’m able to do so.
- Don’t expect to be back to “normal” as soon as the problem area heals. At some point, the doctor will give me the go-ahead to start resuming normal activities. When that moment comes, I need to remember that I will not be ready for Pilates or walking on the treadmill or probably a whole bunch of stuff. Pacing myself will be important. Remember #1 – listen to your doctor and your body.
There’s nothing more important than your health. When you have an illness, surgery or injury, take time to properly rest and heal. In the big picture, a few days/weeks/months of recovery, can make a big difference in the way you feel.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby at the Liberty Hotel in Boston, MA
Another regular feature we want to have on this blog is a round-up of resources you might find useful. I read a lot of blogs and over time I’ve really come to enjoy when other bloggers do this. But in an effort to put a different twist on the idea, I want to curate resources around a single topic. That way, you can “bookmark” it for future reference.
In the U.S., we recently had an election and now have a new President and Congress. Now I’m not here to talk about who and what to support. That’s your decision and I respect it. However, I think we can agree that we are seeing an overall increased level of activism in our political process. And maybe at some point in time, you’ll want to be a part of it – if you aren’t already.
I’m all for getting involved and making a difference and your thoughts known to your legislators. It’s the foundation of our political systems. However, I also know that reaching out to your congressional representatives can be a bit intimidating. And, as an HR professional, I’ve seen a lot of really good ideas never get implemented because of the way they were presented. So here are some resources to help you communicate with your elected officials:
Lifehacker published a couple of posts recently, written by a former congressional staffer, that focus on how to communicate with your government officials.
I just discovered an app that allows you to stay on top of issues and send videos to your representatives. It’s called Countable and is available for iOS and Android (FREE.)
Should you decide to take to the streets to show your support for an issue, this article on “How to Protest Safely and Legally” is a must-read.
When I was first starting my career, I got involved in the legislative affairs committee and made a difference for my profession. The woman who chaired the committee was loud and passionate about people voting and getting involved. One day, I asked her what made her so passionate and she said that she grew up in South Africa. She knew what it was like not to have the freedom to vote and contact her legislators. She basically said, “You Americans don’t know how good you have it.” From that moment on, I realized the importance of being involved and having my voice heard.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the Newseum in Washington, DC
There are three primary methods to learning – auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. These methods also apply to the way we express ourselves. In life, I’ve learned that images can speak as loudly as words. Specifically, when it comes to blogging, I’ve come to realize that the images I choose to share in a post are an additional way to communicate because people can interpret the images in various ways.
One of the features I’d like to include on this blog is a wordless Wednesday post. I’m not exactly sure how it got started but it’s the idea that on Wednesdays, bloggers post a photograph with no explanation except for the photo credit. Hopefully the image will inspire or just make someone think about life.
Hope you enjoy this first image! I’m looking forward to sharing more with you.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby in the lobby of her financial planner’s office
That’s why Keith and I started the Unretirement Project.
Years ago, I was the director of human resources, working for a major hotel chain. Our outside legal counsel would call and ask for a favor once a year. It was for lunch reservations on New Year’s Day at our restaurant. One time, I asked him about it and he told me that he and his wife sat down (on New Year’s Day) for a very long lunch to talk about life – their personal and professional lives. They talked about the things they wanted to do and stop doing.
Fast forward several years. When Keith and I started our HR consulting firm, ITM Group, we decided that talking about our business and personal lives was something we should do. Think of it as our own strategic planning session. In addition, we needed to talk about retirement. Specifically, what we wanted our retirement to look like.
Over the years, we’ve realized that the kind of retirement our parents had wasn’t in the cards for us. You know, work for the same company for 20+ years, announce your retirement, then hang out with friends, play cards, etc. There are a few reasons for this: 1) I’ll admit that I’m a workaholic and I cannot imagine not working. 2) We fell in love with this thing called blogging.
In 2008, we started a blog called HR Bartender. Keith wanted me to start writing an electronic newsletter for our consulting business. I was a bit reluctant to do so. No, the truth is I was a lot reluctant to do so. So, I mentioned blogging. I didn’t know anything about how to start a blog. Over the years, HR Bartender has done pretty well. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has named it one of the Top 5 HR and Business Blogs read by human resources professionals.
So, we decided that we wanted our “retirement” or in this case, unretirement, to include blogging. Hence, the Unretirement Project was born.
A lot of people post pictures of the sunrise on their first day of retirement representing a new beginning in their lives. I decided to post a pen because I think unretirement is about rewriting the rules of retirement. I used this old pen in my corporate life and my consulting life. I have no intention of getting rid of it. I’ll just use it for new things. Unretirement is about finding more time to do the things you love and less time on the things that are a PITA.
I’m not exactly sure where our unretirement journey will take us. But I’m looking forward to finding out. One thing I do know is that unretirement doesn’t start at a specific age or time. You control your unretirement. The question is “Do you know what you want your unretirement to look like?”
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby
We remember what retirement used to look like. One day, you just stop working and start retiring – living off your company pension with a little help from Social Security. That’s what our parents did. Today, for the most part, all of that has changed.
To help us understand, we might want to look at what retirement really is. The Cambridge Dictionary defines retirement as “the point at which someone stops working”. If we accept that as the true definition of retirement, we can then understand the need for something new. The need for unretirement.
Unretirement is the move from working full-time to working . . . less. But it’s more than that. It’s working, but doing something we want to do. And getting paid for it. Most of all, unretirement is earning the opportunity to live on our own terms.
Best of all? It’s exactly what the labor market wants from us.
Right now, ten thousand people reach retirement age every day according to a recent Pew Research study. The National Institute on Aging reports that, on average, only 33 percent of retirees continue working full-time. The result is a growing labor shortage that is creating a real need for our skills.
In most cases, businesses don’t want to hire more and more full-time employees. But they are looking for skilled workers who want to help out and take on some of the work. This is called the gig economy, and finance company Intuit predicts that, by 2020, 40 percent of U.S. workers will fall into this category. In fact, entire enterprises such as Lyft and Airbnb have risen out of gig employment.
That’s where unretirement comes in. It’s identifying that encore career and understanding the best way for it to fit into our retirement life. Wikipedia defines encore career as “work in the second half of life that combines continued income, greater personal meaning, and social impact.”
Unretirement is also focusing on our health and wellness so we can get the most out of the fun things we want to do in retirement. We may have to upgrade a skill or two along the way. But no successful unretirement comes without a cost.
It’s time for a fresh perspective about life after work. It’s time for unretirement.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while traveling in Maui, HI